The GOP tax bill all but passed through Congress Tuesday night, with Republican majorities in both houses carrying the tax reform package to President Donald Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law. But the legislation that breezed through the House and squeezed through the Senate is complex, so it’s hard to know exactly when tax reform will affect taxpayers across the U.S.
The bill described by critics as the most sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws in more than three decades. A deeply unpopular bill despite Republicans insisting Americans will learn to love when they see their paychecks in the new year. President Donald Trump cheered the lawmakers on, eager to claim his first major legislative accomplishment.
Some the Republican tax bill’s impact will begin at the start of 2018, though other elements won’t take effect until 2019 and beyond. For instance, when you file your 2017 taxes in April, you’ll already be getting some benefits like lower tax withholding, but other perks won’t show until you file your tax return in April 2019.
If you’re trying to get your finances ready to take advantage of the Trump tax plan, here’s what you need to know:
Make your 2018 charitable donations now
If you’re one of the many filers who will benefit by taking the GOP tax bill’s increased standard deductions — and you previously deducted charitable contributions under the old tax plan — consider making your 2018 charitable donations before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. By using the new, bigger standard deductions, you’re agreeing not to itemize your returns, which means it’s not financially beneficial for you to give to charities in 2018. This is a point of contention for nonprofits and opponents of the bill. But there is one way to make sure both you and charities benefit (at least at the moment), and that’s by putting your 2018 contribution on your 2017 taxes instead.
Republicans in Washington are about to drop a lump of coal into the Christmas stocking of every charity in America. https://t.co/Fv568zRttM
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) December 19, 2017
Tax brackets change on January 1
With changes to the tax rates, the GOP tax bill brings tax cuts to almost all of the seven tax brackets beginning in 2018. That means the current rates, from 10% for the lowest bracket to 39.6% for the highest earners, will change and look like this:
— John Fleming (@john_w_fleming) December 19, 2017
Tax withholding changes early in 2018
According to the Internal Revenue Service, new guidance about tax withholding will be issued in January, which means the amount of taxes that come out of your paycheck could change as early as February.
Standard deduction increases will take a while
For the 2017 tax year, the standard deduction for single taxpayers is $6,350. In other words, you won’t get to use the newly passed $12,000 standard deduction when you file your 2017 taxes in April 2018. Likewise, married couples filing jointly will see a bump from $12,700 to $24,000, but that won’t impact their household finances until they file in April 2019. So, don’t start budgeting around that big tax return, yet.
Obamacare isn’t going away, yet
Donald Trump and the Republican Party fought all year to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And though their healthcare push fell short, they were able to insert language into the GOP tax bill to eliminate the ACA’s individual mandate, the clause that financially penalized taxpayers if they did not sign up for health insurance. However, the individual mandate doesn’t end until 2019, so don’t go dumping your healthcare yet.
At more than 560 pages, the GOP tax reform bill has a lot more intricacies, and there are undoubtedly many more ways to plan ahead for your taxes. But these five pieces will help the majority of households prepare for the big changes ahead.
#LeNora Millen 12-20-17
Government Shutdown: What’s Closed, Who is Affected?
Medicare Takes Aim at Medical Identity Theft: Protecting Seniors From Fraud
Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 or older for personal identity theft. In 2014 alone, there were 2.6 million such incidents among seniors, according to the Department of Justice.
A growing offshoot of identity theft is healthcare fraud, which can result when someone unlawfully uses another person’s Medicare number. Medical identity theft can lead to inaccuracies in medical records, which in turn can result in delayed care, denied services and costly false claims.
That’s why Medicare works with the Department of Justice, taking aim squarely at would-be thieves. In the largest law enforcement action against criminals fraudulently targeting the Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare programs, 412 people around the country, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, were charged in 2017 with bilking U.S. taxpayers out of $1.3 billion.
New Medicare Card for 2018. (Video Courtesy of YouTube)
The next big fraud-fighting push is well underway — and its focus is protecting the personal information of senior citizens by removing their Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.
People with Medicare don’t need to take any action to get a new Medicare card. Beginning in April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will mail out newly designed Medicare cards to the 58 million Americans with Medicare. The cards will have a new number that will be unique for each card recipient. This will help protect personal identity and prevent fraud because identity thieves can’t bill Medicare without a valid Medicare number. To help with a seamless transition to the new cards, providers will be able to use secure lookup tools that will support quick access to the new card numbers when needed.
Healthcare fraud drives up costs for everyone, but healthcare consumers can be an effective first line of defense against fraud. Follow these tips to help protect yourself:
- Treat your Medicare number like a credit card.
- When the new card comes in the mail next year, destroy your old card and make sure you bring your new one to your doctors’ appointments.
- Be suspicious of anyone offering early bird discounts, limited time offers or encouraging you to act now for the best deal. That’s an indicator of potential fraud because Medicare plans are forbidden from offering incentives.
- Be skeptical of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true.
- Only give your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
- Report suspected instances of fraud.
- Check your Medicare statements to make sure the charges are accurate.
- Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email or approaches you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. Medicare will never contact you uninvited and request your Medicare number or other personal information.
- Don’t let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
- Don’t allow anyone, except your doctor or other Medicare providers, to review your medical records or recommend services.
- Don’t let anyone persuade you to see a doctor for care or services you don’t need.
- Don’t accept medical supplies from a door-to-door salesman.
Learn more about how you can fight Medicare fraud at Medicare.gov/fraud, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can also visit a local SHIP counselor, who can provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance.
With a common sense approach to protecting health information, senior citizens can be effective partners in fighting Medicare fraud.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Trump Children’s Health Insurance Tweet Contradicts White House Administration
Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump contradicted his own administration on Thursday when he tweeted that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) should not be included in a short-term plan to fund the government.
Trump’s tweet sent on Thursday morning, seemingly undercut the “Stopgap Spending Bill,” leaving many confused at what could be construed as an “Anti-Chip” tweet.
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